by Merrill Gay
Why, in today’s world, does anyone want to run for mayor of New Britain? It’s a good question.
When I came to New Britain in 1989, I was immediately impressed by its people, its parks and natural resources and its rich cultural diversity. At once I knew this was the place to raise a family.
Over the years, however, as New Britain’s large factories and good paying jobs left, New Britain lost a good part of its economic identity and we haven’t found it since. We cannot deny that, despite all the hoop la from city hall, New Britain has one of the highest tax rates in Connecticut and one of the lowest rates of economic growth. Our city needs a vision and a long-term economic plan which focuses on available development sites such as the old Pinnacle Heights housing complex, on New Britain’s down town center and on an effort to reclaim and remarket properties along the old industrial corridor along Myrtle Street. New Britain’s current random, ad hoc economic development policy is simply inadequate.
The benefits of an effective plan are clear: new jobs, a larger tax base, more revenue and a momentum that drives still greater growth. Part of what must be done is developing a focused rational downtown development plan which promotes the city’ center as a safe and popular place to be.
This revitalization should continue into our diverse neighborhoods. The diversity of our city is such a great asset and something we need to build on. We have a strong Polish community with a vibrant cultural and economic center on Broad Street. We need to work with the Hispanic community and replicate that success in the Arch Street/ South Main Street area. New Britain has the potential to be a place where ethnic diversity translates into economic growth and stability.
Again, these goals are tied to a long-term economic development plan, which I would put in place as mayor.
Clearly related to the city’s success is the success of our school system. Having dedicated most my professional career and personal time to improving educational opportunity, I am committed to improving the performance of New Britain’s schools. While school funding is important, money alone will not solve New Britain’s educational crisis. Economically vibrant cities must have strong well performing schools and, so too, New Britain’s future is linked to improved educational performance.
With respect to the management of city government I am, as many New Britain residents are, disappointed with what we have seen: historically high tax increases; growing debt; gross mismanagement of the city’s water resources, a weak and jobless economic development policy, anemic grand list growth and a serious lack of transparency in government operations.
So, in summary, I’m running for many good reasons. I am not running for the glory, not for the money, not to better my political future and not because I think this will be easy work. I am running to unite our city because, together, we can build a better New Britain.
As the campaign unfolds, I hope to meet all the people of New Britain, to exchange ideas on our future, understanding that when the election season is over, we will unite to move our community forward.